He started about six months ago. Only having his bow out once a week for an hour or so in the morning, and yeah, it’s going to happen. Never too often, but it simply would take more than that to keep up the one hundred percent hit rate. It unnerved him the first time it happened. But it wasn’t like misses then would cause someone to get hurt or killed. He got used to it, relearned to value all his hits.
He worried, of course, when Steve called, and suddenly the possibility he might miss a vital shot became a potential problem. But in the end, he didn’t; he hit all the shots that counted, at least the ones involving arrows.
They’ve set him up a practice range in the royal retreat in Wakanda where they’ve taken sanctuary. Clint has taken 500 shots on it today, carefully counted, and hit every one.
That’s satisfying, obviously, but he’s also a little sad as he changes out of his practice gear. He considers his hearing aids, but he’s about to be in close proximity to a landing plane, and one Natasha stole, so it might be in poor condition and therefore louder. He heads to the entrance of the building without them.
It’s been about half an hour since T’Challa notified him that his family had entered Wakandan airspace. Sam’s flown out to greet them and lead them to the valley, testing out his latest set of wings for durability. It’s a bit of complicated route they’re taking to keep them out the sight of most of the country’s population, but ETA’s minutes away. And right now, Clint Barton is wondering how mad his wife is going to be at him.
She wasn’t any happier than the kids were when he left. He hugged Lila and Cooper and told them he should be back in a few days, after which she took him aside and snapped at him that she knew it wouldn’t be that simple. “Do you really think you won’t probably be arrested?” she hissed. “Look, if you absolutely have to do this, you absolutely have to do this, but do you know, I’m going to redo our inventory.” She emphasized those last words, because they spoke of what she thought they might have to do if things went wrong enough.
“I know,” he said, “but I have hope this can be sorted out. Once this task is done, I’ll even sign the Accords if they then let me go in return. That’s not the part of what’s going on I object to anyway.”
She sighed, and kissed him, and said, “Please do come back.”
They’ve always known it might someday come to this, though the assumption was that if his family had to flee the farm, it would be because the wrong person learned about them. Natasha even once made a list for them of places they can be resettled in, mostly in the antipodes. While Clint was active, they maintained the ability to evacuate at a day’s notice. The only reason Laura had to redo the inventory of what they could take with them was because they let things slide the past year.
Meanwhile, she’s probably figured out by now that Clint does not plan to go back into retirement. Definitely if she’s seen any of the longer communications between him and Natasha.
This past year has been the best of Clint’s life. He’s woken up every day next to his wife, gotten constant reminders as they’ve gone about their new life together why he married her all those years ago. He’s finally been a full-time father to his children, learned more about then than he’d gotten to know in their entire lives before it. He’s taken on tasks he once left completely to Laura; he’s proud to have mastered them. He was there when Nathan learned to crawl; he heard his first words. Even his relationship with Natasha improved. The aftermath of New York and constantly being sent different places and having different tasks to do had caused them to drift apart a little. But for the past year, when she came to the farm, they had so much time where they have nothing to do but reconnect and be with each other in every way they could imagine. It’s still something that overwhelms him, this happiness in his family, something that would’ve seemed ridiculous to him back during his own pain-filled childhood.
But while he’s been away from it, the world’s gotten darker, and so has his own country. Clint still feels shaken over the fact that he wasn’t just arrested for doing the right thing, he was taken away from the law and from anyone who might see, sealed up in a secret cell like a supervillain in the Fridge. He’s still angry the man responsible then had the gall to criticize *them* for working outside the law. Where has Ross’ oversight been? Whenever he hears or reads some pundit talk about how dangerous Wanda Maximoff is, all he can think is it isn’t superpowers or any special abilities that determine who the most dangerous people are, and those the world should be afraid of are the same ones who get praised for putting her in a straightjacket, the ones who don’t have an ounce of her morals and basic decency.
And if those people are the ones with the law and the world on their side, if one of them even gets elected President…well. He’s needed again. And this time to battle things much nastier and more complicated and harder to bring down than alien invaders or rogue robots or even mind control. And he’s not sure what this second career as an Avenger is going to do to him as a person before it’s over.
Outside it’s hot and humid, as is usual for these parts. Laura’s sinuses won’t like that, and nor will Cooper’s, but they might not even stay here long enough for the kids’ excitement over seeing a real jungle to wear off.
He spots the two shapes in the sky after a minute or so. As they descend into the valley, he first notes the plane Natasha stole is an old S.H.I.E.L.D. two-person fighter pilot. Looks like she’s finally tracked down where the government put the ones they haven’t done anything else with after someone apparently broke into their first facility and made off with a quinjet. (Maria says she’s tracking it. Clint wonders.) That allows seats for both women, but it isn’t the most roomy place to have three children in as well.
Except right now they don’t. When they’re a little closer, he can see a little figure clutching to Sam, draped down his back. Probably Lila, having the time of her life.
Of course he’s got to feel some concern, as a father. Those wings are still relatively untested. But he can’t say he’s surprised. Lila’s an adventurous kid, much like he was, but thankfully not quite as reckless. She’s asked too about learning archery. He’s a little worried he might have to lay down the law that she’s not doing any superheroing until she’s eighteen and he doesn’t care how old that Spiderkid was, but he thinks in a year or so he might start teaching her. It would be good, anyway, for her to be able to protect herself and her mother and brothers. He can’t help but be proud of how brave she is.
He’s got no scoldings, really, when Sam lands, though he looks nervous. He also glances anxiously at Clint’s empty ears; his sign language is pretty limited. But Lila is all smiles, he easily reads her cry of “Daddy!” although she signs it too. Sam is barely settled when Lila’s off him, running up and jumping into her father’s arms. “Missed you so much,” she pulls back just enough to sign to him.
“Missed you, too,” he replies, speaking, because he doesn’t want to move his arms. To Sam he just mouths, “Thank you.”
“Aunt Natasha came to get us in the middle of the night.” Lila’s still signing. “We drove until dawn, and then she drove off the road into a heap of grass, which she covered us with and we slept all day. Then I don’t know where she took us, but there was a house on a dirt road, and we sealed most of our bags up in a secret room under the basement, and then she went off and came back with the airplane.” The airplane in question has landed. In the cockpit he can see Natasha smiling, Cooper on her lap. Laura’s in the other seat, so she’s facing away; he can just see the outline of her holding Nathan.
Natasha calls Sam’s name, Clint watches as he goes over and they talk, with her handing him a large colorful envelope. “For Scott Lang, from his daughter,” he reads off her lips before Cooper blocks his view and takes his attention. He’s looking pretty tired, and he doesn’t have Lila’s excitement, but he looks around the valley with genuine curiosity, and when he sees the statue of the panther he stares with awe.
Lila sees, and as Clint gently lowers her down she calls something out to him, though he can’t quite get a good enough look at her mouth to tell what. He looks up at his father and signs, “Is this really Africa?”
“Is it,” Clint signs back. “You’ve read about Wakanda, right? Well, now you’re seeing it. You might even get to meet its new King.”
“Wakanda…” Cooper mouths that, and Clint sees Lila laugh a little.
Natasha has followed in his wake. Laura hasn’t yet; Nathan has abruptly started crying, and she’s trying to calm him. She stands there, and he sees the fear in her eyes even before she signs, “Am I forgiven?” Her hands are trembling a little, which truly shocks him.
The proper response to that isn’t one he can do in front of Sam and the kids. All he can do is both speak and sign, “You were forgiven already,” and kiss her chastely on the side of her face. “You should’ve have even been worried about that,” he whispers to her, because that feels like too intense a thing to sign with all these people around them.
She manages a nod, but he doesn’t think she can do more right now; it would be hard enough for her to express her feelings normally, let alone when they’re unusually strong. They don’t need more, though. A moment later he sees her face turn slightly towards Cooper, who has probably called out to her, and Clint turns his attention to the other love of his life.
Nathan’s calming down, his face against his mother’s neck as she steps out of the plane. She’s managed to balance him while keeping her hands free, and she signs to Clint, “Probably just the long plane ride and a place much hotter than he’s used to. He might have sinus issues too.”
She doesn’t look much better than their youngest. A bit unkempt, as to be expected. Also like she’s been crying, at least a little. One look at her eyes and Clint knows she hasn’t slept well for maybe weeks. He extends his arms only slightly; she can easily ignore them. But instead she nearly falls into his embrace, and just rests there for a moment. Nathan starts tapping against his father’s chest; Clint focuses on that.
He thinks someone must have called her name, because she nudges him away and looks over. He turns in time to read, “…take Nathan?” off of Natasha’s lips.
The boy is handed over, and Natasha turns to Sam and his two siblings, who are now engaged in an excited conversation. When Laura places her hands between herself and Clint, they’re the only two who can see them sign, “I’m still angry with you.”
“I’m sorry,” he signed back.
“No you’re not.” He saw her frown, too. But then she added, “And honestly, watching the news before we left? I’m not sure I am either.”
She just looked at her hands for another moment; Clint saw them clench slightly. Then she signed, “I need you to make exactly one promise to me. That you’ll do everything in your power to make sure our children still have good lives, and that you’ll put their safety before everything. I understand what’s coming; Natasha’s said more than enough to me. I know the two of you have things to fight for now, and things you’re both willing to die for. I respect that, and I even agree with it. I’m not even asking you to save me, if it ever happens to be me or the world.” Clint bites back his protest there; he knows better. “But…” Her hands fumble, and he can see her breathing has gone irregular.
“They’ll be all right,” he signs. “I will make sure they are all right. I promise.” Maybe it’s for the better, that they’ve settled all this right now. The potential choices that will haunt his nightmares from now on might prove a little less impossible if he already knows how he’s going to make them. If he makes the resolutions and prepares for it starting now, just in case.
Laura nods, and steps away, because yes, she is still angry with him. But they have their understanding, and her anger he can bear until she’s ready to forgive him.
Sam and Natasha lead them in, Lila and Cooper still wide-eyed. Clint doesn’t try to keep track of what they’re saying for a while, just lets Sam give his tour and answer their questions.
Partway through, Natasha drops back, and quietly signs to him, “Tony managed to sneak me the latest hearing aids he’s designed. Apparently he’s spending more days that not completely in his lab. I’ve got them on me right now. You really should at least give them a try.”
He can’t afford to be proud over anything that could help him as an Avenger, Clint knows. He holds his hands out.
Earlier that day he moved his things from the single room he’d been staying in to the larger three-bedroom suite Sam now finishes the tour with. The four newcomers look around the common area as Clint carefully puts the new hearing aids in. The world of sound returns, and it does indeed seem a little more full, even at first impression.
“I’ll leave you all to settle in,” Sam says, as the children go to check out their room. Nathan is making noises, ones Clint can barely hear. “Let me take him,” Laura says to Natasha.
The two women also go to check out their official rooms, although as Clint follows Natasha, he has no idea whether she will actually sleep in hers. The rooms are unfancy, but very comfortable, not at all what Clint would expect out of royal guestrooms. “The walls are thin,” Natasha observes, just loud enough for him to hear her, then signs, “I can hear the kids talking in the next room, though I don’t think they realize that.”
Clint can’t hear them, but it may be that an ordinary hearing person couldn’t either, and it’s just Natasha who can. “What are they saying?” he asks.
She sighs, and sits down on the bed. “Lila’s said it’s strange, because they’ve just seen a lot more the world, and they agree a lot of what they saw was beautiful, except now they know it’s ugly too. Cooper’s now in the middle of a long rant about recent news in general.” She shakes her head. “And he doesn’t even know that the rumors about the new earthquake vigilante are actually true.”
That’s news to Clint, but it can wait until all the Avengers taking refuge here are gathered. For now, he sits next to her and says, out loud, but very softly, “We weren’t trained for this either. Not really. I mean, we know how to sneak around, but…”
“Well,” Natasha replied, taking his hand. “We’ve always both been fast learners. And even if we can’t stop them from being scared, and that’s awful, even if things will never be the same for any of us even if we all live to see this nightmare end…we’ll take care of them together.”